Passage rates on state tests plunged by more than half...

Passage rates on state tests plunged by more than half in math and nearly as much in English, after the state Education Department moved to more rigorous national academic standards known as the Common Core. Credit: Newsday, 2011/Thomas A. Ferrara

Wednesday, New York State released the scores for the first round of tests that are based on the P-12 Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS). They were, as expected, not very good. Basically, the scores confirmed what we already knew -- that we must do things differently if we want to ensure that students graduate from high school college and career ready.

The baseline that the test scores has given us affords a prime opportunity to address the hard truth that too many New York State students are graduating from high school without the skills and knowledge that are crucial for success in today's economy. According to a report from the business leaders group, America's Edge, our state could face a deficit of 350,000 workers with the midlevel skills that are needed for those jobs that require more than a high school degree. Looking forward, seven in 10 New York jobs between 2008 and 2018 will require some type of formal education beyond high school, and more than 80 percent of the high wage jobs in our state will require at least a two-year degree.

Unfortunately, only 41 percent of New York students who took the ACT college entrance exam in 2012 met all four college readiness benchmarks for core subject areas -- English, math, reading and science. Of the students entering college in May 2011, only 37 percent were considered "college and career ready." Because of this, we spend thousands of dollars on remediation in the State University of New York system alone -- teaching what should've been taught in high school.

The CCLS establish a rigorous set of educational standards for English language arts and mathematics for students from prekindergarten through 12th grade. They also reflect businesses' needs for a highly skilled workforce that has mastered core academic content and is able to think critically, solve complex problems and communicate effectively.

As both a Regent and a Long Island business owner, I believe that now is not the time to turn back -- but to implement the CCLS in a thoughtful way, taking the required time to make sure that it doesn't get lost in the miasma of assessment difficulties and resultant evaluation concerns. This will increase students' understanding of key concepts and sufficiently support teachers and administrators, while raising test scores the next time around.

Roger Tilles is Long Island's representative on the New York State Board of Regents.